October 19, 2007
ACORN endorses HISD bond referendum

Didn't get to this story from Wednesday about another endorsement for the HISD bond referendum, which also has some details about what the opposition is up to.

Leaders of ACORN, a grass-roots organization for low-income Houston families, endorsed the bond plan, saying they are willing to look beyond the district's strategic mistakes.

But a coalition of Baptist ministers said they can't support a measure that would close campuses and provide what they consider inadequate funds for schools in predominantly black neighborhoods.

Both sides agree that the proposal is drawing unprecedented attention from parents and politicians who overwhelming supported the district's 2002 and 1998 bond issues.

"It should be debated. It should be talked about in the community," said ACORN member Alana Hill, whose daughter graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 2005. "If it opened the door of communication, that's a plus right there."

ACORN members said they'll volunteer at phone banks and go door-to-door to garner support for the issue.

The Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity announced plans to take voters from the "pews to the polls" during early voting Oct. A group of more than 40 religious leaders chanted "Vote no" as they concluded a news conference Tuesday.

"Let's pool our resources -- our buses, our secretary, our phones. We want to have this thing defeated by the time (Nov. 6) comes," said the Rev. J.J. Roberson, president of the organization, which represents about 200 churches.

We'll see who's better at organizing and getting out their voters. I've come to the opinion that the bond is a slight favorite now, but nobody should rest easy.

On Monday night, Concerned Citizens for School Equality, a political action committee opposing the bonds, distributed hundreds of green yard signs and door hangers. Leaders of the group are calling for HISD to develop a long-term plan, create a task force to study inequities among neighborhood schools and establish a policy on consolidating campuses.

Most of all, they want the district to redevelop this plan with community input and bring it back to voters in May.

Does this mean they're still hoping HISD pulls it off the ballot? Because I'm of the understanding that if the measure gets defeated, it can't be re-voted on for a few years. Am I missing something here?

Meanwhile, there were two letters to the editor yesterday responding to the Lisa Falkenberg column about the union endorsement of the bond. I'm reprinting them beneath the fold for posterity. Click on to read them.

Opinion offends Saavedra

Lisa Falkenberg's Oct. 16 column, "Saavedra deal debated," was very disappointing and offensive. I resent her implication of "backroom deal-making." She was flat wrong. No deal has been made with the union or with any other group. It was this administration's refusal to cut political deals on this bond issue that caused a few special interest groups to oppose it from the start. I refuse to make deals or to bargain away the needs of our children.

I've said that the district doesn't have the market cornered on good ideas: If the community comes up with something that is good for children, we will take that idea to the school board.

And that is why, weeks after announcing the bond issue and after six town hall meetings, I recommended modifications to the original proposal. The same thing happened in discussions with union leaders.

The district has not updated its prevailing wage scale in more than seven years. With the success of the proposed bond issue and a resulting construction program, it would be timely to update it. A series of business meetings was held with representatives of labor to discuss updating the wage scale and the apprenticeship programs. The discussions were productive, and I agreed it would be prudent to make recommendations to the board for apprenticeship programs associated with the district's construction contracts and to raise the wage scale to be more in line with what other public entities in Harris County are paying for construction. Falkenberg was wrong to suggest any other motive for my recommendation.

I appreciate that columnists are supposed to have opinions to spur discussions and to sell newspapers. In this case, though, her comments were hurtful.

superintendent, Houston Independent School District, Houston

Win for community

Lisa Falkenberg's Oct. 16 column just infuriated me.

Trying to make something dirty that is so good in so many ways is just reprehensible.

If Falkenberg cannot see this is a win-win for everyone, she must not be able to see the forest for the trees.

  • Houston Independent School District students who live in the community will be trained in a skilled construction trade. Most important of all, they will receive a livable wage and receive insurance for themselves and their family.

    They won't be a burden on society.

    They will receive a pension so that they will be able to have a comfortable retirement in the later years.

  • The new prevailing wage will increase the standard of living for union and non-union workers on HISD projects, thereby increasing the middle class of America. This will be a win for all workers.
  • HISD schools will be built by a skilled work force made up from its own graduates.

Superintendent Saavedra and his staff have worked with diligence and fortitude on this bond proposal and I thank them for all their hard work.

This is really all about the students, teachers and communities helping to create a better environment without cost to taxpayers.

marketing representative, Sheet Metal Workers Local Union #54, Houston

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 19, 2007 to Election 2007

Parents of students at Lovett Elementary are encouraging people to vote not. It seems that a decision has been made to level Lovett, an exemplary school, and merge Lovett's zoned kids w/Kolter and Parker, end it's very successful music magnet, and turn the property into a parking lot for Bellaire High School. I'm appalled.

Posted by: Dema Solberg on October 19, 2007 12:38 PM

where did u hear this from? that is a detail left out and ilive right nearlovett. im outraged. please tell us more....

Posted by: benhur on October 20, 2007 3:32 AM

They had a meeting at Lovett at which Scott Van Beck (West District Superintendant) spoke. I teach w/several parents of Lovett students, who attended the meeting.

Posted by: Dema Solberg on October 20, 2007 8:55 AM

and van beck stated this? he told residents that lovett will be torn down for bellaire high parking? bc hisd says that lovett will be rebuilt. however-if the sotry u have is true then this needs to get out NOW.this could kill the bond on this side of town

Posted by: benhur on October 20, 2007 3:41 PM

I am a Lovett parent of a kindergartener. This was proposed by Diane Johnson, and Scott Van Beck and Ann Sledge tried to push it but the Lovett community strongly opposed it and mobilized quickly. We were able to obtain a commitment from Dr. Saavedra in writing, which we are sending out to our parents that the bond will be as published: a new school for Lovett at its current site, and funding for repairs at Kolter. We spent today going door to door in the Lovett zoned neighborhood to urge our friends and neighbors to Vote YES for the HISD bond!

Posted by: Amy Tehauno on October 27, 2007 12:21 PM